In what has become a staple of IDW Publishing’s convention programming, the publisher revealed the next two titles in its Artist’s Edition series Friday evening at WonderCon. “Sergio Aragones’ Groo the Wanderer: Artist’s Edition” will debut in July 2012 and “Jack Davis EC Comics Stories: Artist’s Edition” will follow later in the year. The Artist’s Edition books reproduce original, black and white, uncorrected artwork at full size in a deluxe 12″ x 17″ hardcover format. The series debuted in 2010 with “Dave Stevens’ The Rocketeer: Artist’s Edition,” a book so impressive, Marvel Comics enlisted IDW to produce editions dedicated to Walter Simonson’s “Mighty Thor” and John Romita’s “Amazing Spider-Man.”.
Comic Book Resources spoke with IDW editor Scott Dunbier, who created and shepherds the Artist’s Edition line, about the two newest additions.
Before WonderCon got underway, news broke that IDW’s most recent title in the line, “Wally Wood’s EC Stories: Artist’s Edition,” had sold out and was going back to press to meet demand, marking the first reprint for the prestige series. “I knew there would be a strong demand,” Dunbier told CBR News. “Wally Wood is one of the greatest artists ever to work in comics, and EC in particular is, I feel, his strongest work. We were lucky enough to get good scans of some of his truly best stories. It’s a great book and I’m glad people are out there who recognize how wonderful he is.”
Dunbier said the idea for the Aragones Artist’s Edition came from “Groo” writer Mark Evanier, who pitched the book at last year’s Comic-Con International in San Diego. “I thought it was a great suggestion,” Dunbier said, “so after the show I spoke to Sergio a couple of times, sent him a copy of the Simonson ‘Thor’ book and it was pretty easy to convince him. He said, ‘Great, this looks perfect, I love it, let’s do it!’ Sergio’s a very affable, friendly, gregarious guy. He loves seeing these books come together.” The book will collect the four-part storyline “The Wager of the Gods,” which originally appeared in “Groo the Wanderer” #96-99.
The Artist’s Edition books require Dunbier and IDW to have access to the original pages, which can be tricky if artists have sold their work or the art has otherwise become difficult to locate. Each of the Artist’s Editions to date have had different circumstances as to the state of the artwork, its handling and its accessibility. “It was tough, you know. It took a lot of time to get Sergio to go to the closet where it was and send it to me,” Dunbier joked when asked about the upcoming volume. “Sergio generally keeps his originals, which makes my job a lot easier. He was kind enough to send them down to me. It took a little bit longer to scan than usual because I kept on stopping to look at the pages. They are just so much fun to look at.”
Aragones’ art is intriguing in that it appears simple at first glance, but is deceptively detailed, and packed with little sight gags. “It’s very well-thought out stuff,” Dunbier said. “And very spontaneous, too.” The editor noted that the larger size of the Artist’s Edition will allow for closer look at the sometimes tiny scenes taking place in the background of each page. “They’re actually some of my favorite comics,” Dunbier said. “But there are so many little tiny details that, looking at it shrunk down and in color, you do miss some things that are there in the background. So when you see them blown up — actually, not blown up, but actual size — in black and white but scanned in color, you can see all those little details almost for the first time.”
While the Aragones volume will collect one complete “Groo” story, Jack Davis’ book, like the just-released Wally Wood, will contain a collection of shorter works, though Dunbier said the lineup has not yet been solidified. “It is sort of a movable thing. There will be a selection of really great stories, but I have to be a little bit cagey because I don’t want to disappoint people by telling them something’s going to be in it and then it gets bumped,” he said. “I can tell you one story that will be in is ‘Foul Play,’ the famous baseball story.” That story, which first appeared in “The Haunt of Fear” #19 in 1953, was one of the tales specifically cited by Frederic Wertham in “Seduction of the Innocent,” placing it at the center of the censorship and morality debate that would ultimately lead to the creation of the Comics Code Authority.
Renowned for his talents in both the horror and humor genres — not to mention nearly every other type of illustration to which he tried his hand — Davis was also known for his ability to draw very quickly, not that it affected the quality of his work. “The stories are just gorgeous. The man is one of the most easily recognized artists ever, one of the greatest illustrators of the last forty, fifty years. He’s done ‘TV Guide’ covers, he’s done movie posters — the poster he did for ‘It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World’ is breathtaking,” Dunbier said. “He’s a fantastic artist. And you look at this stuff, especially from this point in his career, the brush strokes he puts in, the use of various tools like razor blades, to get an effect in the art — you’re looking at a guy who’s very, very sure of himself, and who you can tell is working very fast, but it’s just gorgeous stuff.”
The studio culture of the time, coupled with the extraordinary talents working for EC and EC owner William Gaines’ MAD Magazine, magnified Davis’ influence even as it furthered his own talent. “Artists are influenced by each other, and tend to be very competitive. If you have one guy doing great stuff, then it brings up the average round,” Dunbier said. “It’s like, if you want to be a good tennis player, you play somebody who’s better than you. And EC was like that to the Nth degree. They had so many great artists and they were all in competition. They were doing these great stories and really trying to match what Wally Wood was doing, what Al Williamson was doing, what Harvey Kurtzman was doing. All these different styles, all these great talents, that’s how you influence somebody, by just doing marvelous work. Jack Davis, like so many of his peers, influenced a generation of artists.”
“Sergio Aragones’ Groo: The Artist’s Edition” will be released in July 2012. “Jack Davis’ EC Stories: The Artist’s Edition” will arrive late 2012.